Saturday, January 17, 2009

from - The Five Paragraph Bitter Food Critic Needs Beta Blockers

glory days.JPG

Not even three weeks into the new year, and I already have a serious contender for the highly-uncoveted title of "Worst Restaurant Meal of 2009." If this meal had taken place in 2008, it would have won like Usain Bolt. If I'd had this meal in 2007, it would have won like Barbaro in the `06 Kentucky Derby. Only a couple of burnt hamburgers-slash-hockey pucks in Des Moines and a ridiculously spoiled swordfish fillet on undercooked linguine in Baltimore's Little Italy keep this debacle out of the "Worst Restaurant Meal of the Double-Aughts" status. And here's the kicker - it started off fine but, man, how it proceeded... nothing less than a sin against all that is holy and deep-fried. I shall explain.

A shopping trip in the Virginia `burbs with a friend ran much later than expected, and the Vietnamese place we wanted to try had long closed by the time we walked into the frigid air. Hungry and cold, we settled on a nearby local chain, Glory Days Grill, figuring a warm meal in a lively atmosphere would help lift our spirits. I've had decent salads from there before, so it seemed like a good idea. The menu is nothing fancy - standard bar grub but with a Chesapeake twist - Old Bay seasoned wings and real Maryland crab cakes are a nice touch - and with local professional and amateur sports teams' paraphernalia on the walls, proves that this is a restaurant based here and focusing on here.

Much like "Wedding Crashers," the meal began promisingly enough. A cup of clam chowder was filled with plenty of fresh seafood and seasoned correctly. But remember that breakfast scene with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, and the movie seemed to lose a lot of steam? Well, the same thing happened with this meal, except much earlier in the film. The appetizer was the breakfast scene, with no Will Ferrell around to save the meal from disaster.

Now, as a rule, it's hard to botch fries. Les Pommes Frites are about as common and simple of a food as can be found. Cut the potato in to strips. Fry the potato strips. Drain. Serve. Boom. Done. If you're feeling zany, bake them. Bread them. Make them curly and season them. Bury them in gravy, or cheese, or go crazy like the Quebecois and use both and call it poutine. Just don't serve them how I got them Friday night - apparently marinated in salt, cooked in salt, coated in salt, and then, for good measure, add salt. I used to bartend at a margarita joint, and we had boxes of sea salt that we used to rim the glasses. A prankster co-worker poured about a cup of sea salt into my Starbucks one day, and that wasn't as salty as these fries. I now know what a deer feels like during hunting season. I have tasted the salt lick, now, where are the guys in camouflage jackets and bright orange hats?

Sadly, our entrees were equally salty. My friend's chili mac made her mouth pucker as the saline sucked the moisture from her skin. My chicken sandwich was ridiculously overseasoned, and I might be mistaken as the sodium-induced dehydration is affecting my short-term memory, but my side dish may very well have been the Bonneville Salt Flats. When the server asked if we wanted dessert, one thought permeated my mind - I normally love Teaism's delicious Salty Oat Cookies, but I had one right now, I would have an aneurysm. Seven hours later, and nearly half-a-gallon of water later, I still might. We skipped dessert, much like the arrhythmia is doing to my heartbeat.

Glory Days gets 2 Whammies! out of a possible 8. The clam chowder was certainly acceptable, and the server was fairly snappy with refilling our water glasses. However, between the two of us, there are 8 chambers of our two hearts that now need replacing. No one should ever have this conversation after a meal - "My heart hurts." "Yeah, mine too. Know a good cardiologist?"

Glory Days Grill
Lots of locations in the region, many of them conveniently located near emergency rooms and defibrillators.

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